Sustainable Solutions Tour – Sat Oct 14th, 1 PM – 3:30 PM

We’re pleased to announce our second sustainable solutions tour of 2017, this Saturday, October 14th, from 1-3:30! Plus, we’re partnering with Button Up VT this fall, so come out to receive information and a cool give-away!

Climate change got you feeling down? Come lift your spirits on this Solutions Tour hosted by the Sustainable Williston community group. Your neighbors will welcome you to their homes to show you what they’ve been doing to reduce their carbon footprint and protect our natural environment. Enjoy good company, good ideas, and get inspired!

Meet at 1PM @ 50 Spruce Lane off of N. Williston Rd. The group will carpool to the other tour stops together. Or feel free to drop in at the locations you are most interested in.

Schedule, locations and features listed below:

1:00-1:20 @ 50 SPRUCE LN: Deborah will show off her rain barrel, solar, organic gardening, composting, DIY solar heater for pool! Bonus: This bike commuter will share the best bike route into Burlington!

1:35-2:00 @ 413 BUTTERNUT RD: Living sustainably isn’t easy! Check out a mix of successes and failures with Steve.

2:15-2:35 @ 137 VILLAGE GROVE: Thinking about roof-mounted solar? Ben and Lori will show theirs off as well as perennial gardens, raised beds, and a rain barrel.

2:50-3:10 @ 497 TALCOTT RD (Allen Brook School): Did you know ABS has a wind turbine!? Principal John Terko gives us the scoop!

Tour Maphttps://goo.gl/maps/qXUsGTthtaU2
RSVP for our event and like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/482188012146106/
Have questions or interested in being a stop on a future tour? Contact: ReedCarrGS@gmail.com
Learn more about our group at www.sustainablewilliston.org

$17,500 Off a Nissan Leaf Electric Car Now Extended to all of Williston (and Beyond)

In a recent post, we reported that Green Mountain Power customers could participate in a program that gives a $10,000 discount on a 2017 Nissan Leaf. More recently, Vermont Electric Co-op has worked out a partnership with Nissan to also offer a that $10,000 discount to all its customers.

There’s more information in the previous post, but to recap: the Nissan Leaf is a reliable, well-reviewed, all-electric vehicle with an estimated 107-mile range between charges. EVs like the Leaf have much lower fuel cost than the average gas car (on average, just over 1/3 the cost) plus much lower maintenance costs. The batteries have proven durable and lasting, and by some careful estimates an EV like the Leaf will last twice as long as a gas car. The biggest limitation, of course, is that you have to recharge, and that takes longer than pumping gas. However, you can charge at home overnight, and there are a lot more charging stations in the area than you might guess:

Interactive charging station map available at ChargeHub

In addition to the $10,000 discount, most taxpayers can qualify for a $7,500 tax credit (note that this is a credit deducted from your tax liability, not just a deduction from your income calculation). Vermont Electric Co-op also offers a $250 bill credit to customers who buy an electric car.

Not all Nissan dealerships are participating, but there are three in the region where you can get a Leaf with this discount, so you can comparison shop. You don’t have to pay sticker price minus the discount: you should be able to get a better price from your dealer. The three participating dealerships are:

Save Energy and Lower Greenhouse Gases With Your Phone This Summer

Here’s some information from Generation 180 about their Keep It Cool Campaign, an easy way to help save energy and lower carbon footprints:
Keep it Cool Open Shop Sign

Keep It Cool is a simple campaign by Generation 180 with a huge potential impact: it focuses on stopping the energy waste caused by storefront doors staying open while the A/C is running. Although already illegal in places like New York City, this behavior is common around the country, and collectively it adds up to enormous amounts of wasted electricity and associated pollution.

Generation 180 is a non-profit committed to advancing the transition to clean energy and supporting a cultural shift in energy awareness.

Why the big fuss?

A small action—as simple as closing a door—can not only prevent waste and pollution; it can spread the idea that energy is a resource that we should consume responsibly.

You can be a part of crowd-solving this problem (and it’s really simple):

The Problem

Each store with an open door wastes 4,200 kWh of electricity over the summer.
Generating 4,200 kWh of electricity releases significant pollution (CO2 + SO 2 + Nox + PM)
The pollution released is equivalent to that of a semi-truck driving from NY to Miami (200 gal of diesel).

How Our Campaign Works

On hot days, take notice of retailers’ front doors and send us (Generation 180) store locations via Facebook Messenger (read how to or watch a video)—either to recognize a store for keeping its door closed, or to flag a store that needs a friendly reminder to conserve energy.
For stores with doors that are kept closed, Generation 180 will send them an affirmation for their energy-conscious behavior and place a pin on our campaign map that promotes their location. We will reach out to remind retailers with their doors open to close their door to conserve energy.

Every retailer that Generation 180 contacts will be invited to join our campaign. As retailers commit to keep their doors closed, we’ll recognize them on our map.

Check the map periodically to watch the progress of the Keep It Cool project as it spreads across your community—and across the country.

$17,500 Off a New Electric Car for GMP Customers

Green Mountain Power has just announced a new program for its customers in partnership with Nissan, giving buyers of the 2017 Nissan Leaf a $10,000 discount. This is in addition to a $7,500 tax credit for which most new Leaf buyers will qualify. The base MSRP for a Nissan Leaf is $30,680, meaning buyers who take advantage of the discount and who qualify for the tax credit can get a new Leaf for $13,180.

In addition to savings on purchase of the car itself, electric car buyers enjoy much lower fuel costs and much lower maintenance costs, with no oil changes and few moving parts to wear out.

You may have heard that electric cars aren’t really any better for the environment than gasoline cars. That story has gone around the Internet a lot, but it’s not true. You can read some of the details here.

Transportation is the single biggest factor in most individuals’ and families’ carbon footprints, and cars are the biggest part of the transportation carbon problem. Buying an electric car is one of the very best ways you can reduce your carbon footprint.

The 2017 Leaf has an estimated electric range of 107 miles on a full charge. This goes down a little in winter, but it’s also a conservative number; careful driving can get better range. Many families have an electric car for local transportation and a gas car or hybrid for longer drives. Other electric cars currently available have a greater range: for instance, the Chevy Bolt has a range of 238 miles, and the Chevy Volt (yes, it’s ridiculous that they have two cars with such similar names), while it has only a 53 mile electric range, has a backup gasoline engine that kicks in automatically when the battery runs out of power.

In this deal sounds too good to be true, I can explain Nissan’s motivation here: in a few months they’ll start selling the 2018 Leaf, which has much greater range and some other advantages. Discounting the 2017 models so steeply offers them a change to generate interest in the brand and get the old stock off the lots before it’s eclipsed by the new model.

Questions or concerns about electric cars? Check out the information at Drive Electric Vermont, comment here, or contact us.

Sustainable Williston meets Thursday, April 6th at 7:15 PM (Special Topic: Storm Water)

Sustainable Williston will meet Thursday evening at the Dorothy Alling Library at 7:15 PM. Becky Tharp, Manager of the Green Infrastructure Collaborative, a program of Lake Champlain Sea Grant and the Dept. of Environmental Conservation, will give an educational talk on storm water issues effecting our region. Becky’s presentation will be followed by a brief Q&A session. Come join the conversation!

Vermont and All-Electric Buses

By now you’ve probably heard of electric cars, but have you heard about electric buses? They have all of the advantages of good electric cars in a larger size. For example, they’re very quiet, don’t put out any exhaust, have a low carbon footprint, and require much less maintenance than an ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicle.

Drive Electric Vermont today shared a photo of an electric bus visiting UVM. Take a look:

Proterra electric bus

We regularly buy school buses for the Chittenden South School District and CVU. While electric buses currently cost more than ICE buses, they pay for their extra costs with fuel, maintenance, and repair savings, and once they’ve done that they start saving money for taxpayers. Proterra buses are one option; another is Nova Bus in nearby Quebec. Maybe we here in Williston should get ahead of the curve and start thinking about what environmental and budget savings are in our reach if we opt for this quieter, cleaner type of transportation for our kids.

 

Made Energy Efficiency Improvements in 2014? Don’t Forget Your Tax Credit!

pellet stove

If you made energy efficiency improvements to your home in 2014, you may be eligible for a substantial tax credit. Here are the six areas for which tax credits have been made available:

  • Biomass stoves (this would mainly be wood or wood pellets, though there are some other, less common kinds)
  • Upgrading to a more efficient heating or cooling device (a more efficient boiler, a heat pump, etc.)
  • Insulation
  • Improving efficiency of your roof
  • Non-solar water heater
  • Sealing/improving windows and doors

Full information is available on the Energy Star site, here.

insulating

Tips and Recommendations from the First Smaller Footprint Meeting

Here are some notes of interest from the November 20th meeting of Smaller Footprint, a group whose purpose is to share information, ideas, and planning for shrinking individual and household carbon footprints.

Here are a fewbooks that were mentioned last night:

Mike Berners-Lee, How Bad Are Bananas – an expert carbon footprint calculator gives footprints of everything from paper towels to steak to car accidents to space shuttle launches.

Barbara Kingsolver, Flight Behavior – The famed novelist’s story of a woman who finds a miracle that turns out to be the leading edge of climate change disaster. Much about the immediate experience of climate change creeping on us, leaving out discussion of what we can do about it.

Doug McKenzie-Mohr, Fostering Sustainable Behavior: An Introduction to Community-Based Social Marketing. The two types of social norms I mentioned that tend to cue people’s behavior, the names of which I can never remember off the top of my head, are injunctive norms (what people understand they’re supposed to do) and descriptive norms (what people perceive to be what others mostly do).


ice packDennis’s “Blue Ice Box” concept is a clever approach to reducing electricity use in refrigerators over the winter: purchase two sets of ice packs (he was thinking the blue ones, say, 12 ice packs total). Put half of them outside in freezing weather, then bring them in to the refrigerator as soon as they’re frozen solid. They’ll help cool your food as their temperature equalizes. When they’re entirely unfrozen, swap in the second set (which you’ll have had outside freezing in the mean time) and put the first set back out to freeze again.

Gotchas: leaving either the outside door or the refrigerator door open too long will cancel out some of the benefit of using this approach. Ideally, bring the ice backs in and out when you’re already going in and out of the house for other reasons.

Refrigerators use a thermostat, so adding the additional chill of ice packs will keep the fridge colder longer without requiring the compressor to start: voila, free cold and electricity savings! (Because cold is a renewal resource in Vermont.)

Better Gifts for a Smaller Footprint

This post is reprinted from the Facing Climate Change blog.

presents

The holidays present a whole different set of circumstances compared to daily life, so they also come with a whole different set of sustainability challenges. Top among these after  travel and food (see my previous post) is gift-giving. Recycled wrapping paper or reusable gift bags are great, but be sure the gift in that wrapping takes sustainability into account too.

Here are some tips for carbon-smart gifting:

Start early!
Early planning alone can save both carbon and money. By giving ourselves time to work out good options in advanc, we can avoid unwanted or wasteful gifts as well as rush shipping and other flailing around. In this instance (and many others, as it turns out), organizing and planning make for more affordable, more sustainable presents.

Make sure your gift will be used
In measuring the emissions of a gift in proportion to how much happiness it brings, the biggest loser is a gift that isn’t used at all. We’ve all gotten (and given) them: whether a seemingly genius idea that didn’t pan out or a gift bought at the last minute in desparation, a present that isn’t used damages the climate without helping anyone. Even a returnable present often feels bad to the recipient while creating more travel and/or shipping, which has its own footprint.

Some ways to ensure a gift isn’t a duplicate or a misfire include discussing it with someone else close to the recipient, erring on the side of conservative gift-choosing (for instance, with gift certificates), or even involving the recipient in the gift choice. I know it’s traditional (and fun) for gifts to be surprises, but both as a gift giver and a gift getter, personally I’d be much happier about a gift that’s a hit but not a surprise than a gift that’s unexpected but a flop.

The driving gotcha
Think twice about gifts that involve much driving, whether it’s you getting the gift or the recipient using it. On top of the gift itself, the extra driving creates a bigger negative impact on carbon footprint that’s easy to miss or discount. Since travel is the number one source of emissions for individuals and households, it’s entirely possible to give a gift that has a much bigger impact in terms of driving than is embodied in the gift itself.

Of course, not all driving raises a gift’s impact. For example, if you pick up a gift while driving but are combining that errand with others, the extra driving attributable to that particular gift is lessened or eliminated. Similarly, if the gift-getter is already going to do the driving your gift would entail (for instance, you buy a ski pass for someone you know already plans to go skiing), driving again stops being an issue.

Types of presents
Some categories of gifts, such as electronics, tend to have a much worse impact than others. Even some seemingly-harmless gifts, like clothing and shoes, can come with a heavy climate toll. Here are some ways to approach more sustainable gift choices:

  • Favor gifts that will be used more. An item that is seldom used, even if it’s enjoyed when it is used, is contributing much less for its cost in carbon than something that’s used regularly.
  • Favor gifts of necessities over luxuries. A gift that solves a problem is not only welcome, but also does a much better job of justifying its climate impact.
  • Steer clear of upgraded replacements. For instance, a slightly newer, slightly better smart phone as a gift wastes much of the carbon cost of manufacturing the phone that’s already in use.
  • Prize quality. With so many things so easily replaceable these days, we tend to think of quality as an indulgence. In fact, a durable, high-quality item will often pay for itself much better over time than a cheap item that will wear out and need to be replaced.

Used = more delight for the recipient, less trouble for the climate
My son is interested in animation, and for his recent birthday we bought him a high-quality graphics tablet, the kind of device animators connect to computers and draw on to create their art. There’s no way we could have afforded it if we’d tried to get him a brand-new one, and the climate impact of electronic devices in general is often terrible. Buy buying him a used unit from a reputable seller, we not only got him a much bigger gift than we otherwise could have–one he’ll have a real use for–but we also avoided buying something that had to be manufactured just for him.

Buying used goods doesn’t usually make for a zero carbon footprint, even if we disregard shipping. It’s always possible that if we hadn’t bought that graphics tablet, someone else would have who instead decided to buy a brand-new one. At the same time, it’s also possible that by buying that graphics tablet, we contributed enough to the demand for used items like that that somebody somewhere took one out of the closet and dusted it off for resale rather than letting it sit unused. On average, the impact of buying a used item will be significantly less than that of buying a new item, just not zero.

It’s true that some people may be put off by getting or giving used gifts. We certainly tend to prize the new and shiny in our culture. However, I think we can consider this more reason to give used gifts, not less. If we want to reduce waste and therefore climate change damage in our culture, we need to get used to fixing things, reusing things, and sharing things rather than insisting that everything we have be the latest, private to us, and previously untouched by human hands. Buying used has its limitations, but by encouraging reuse, we help to change both our own and the gift recipient’s ways of approaching consumer goods … for the better.

Photo by Liz Brooks